Archive for February 2013

Spotlight – There’s a Travel App for that!

Once you’ve finalized the booking, why not go above and beyond for your clients and recommend a few travel apps that could prove helpful during their vacation. There are countless apps available for the different operating systems (iPhone, Android, Blackberry, etc.) and while some are free, others are available for a slight fee. And of course, some are more useful and reliable than others, so it’s always a good idea to look at ratings and reviews from those who’ve already tested particular apps.

Smartphone & Apps

There are a multitude of apps to help make your travel experience even better!

With apps available for everything from currency conversion and language translation to interactive museum and walking tours, and maps and schedules for various public transportation systems, traveling to and throughout unfamiliar destinations has never been easier. Curious?  Google best travel apps and you’ll be amazed at the sheer number of options. Overwhelmed? Narrow your search to specific countries, regions, cities; even narrower searches like “Dining in Tuscany app,”  “Museums of Rome app,” “Walking Tours London app,” will produce a variety of results to consider.

Here are just a few of our favorites. Take a look, try them yourself and share your favorites with clients.

  • Rail Europe: Allows users to research train schedules between most stations in Europe, buy tickets (at many); even select a seat!
  • SayHi: Accurate and easy to use language translation app
  • Measures: Puts a unit and currency conversion tool at your fingertips. Users can easily see what a potential purchase costs in US dollars or what the temperature is in Fahrenheit.
  • Museums Mobile – Contains information on thousands of the world’s largest museums and includes information on current and permanent collections. Using your phone’s GPS locator, it will even point you in the direction of museums in the area.
  • Tripit: Allows users to store all the details of their travel for easy, chronological viewing. It’s the perfect place to keep flight confirmations, hotel and rental car vouchers, phone numbers, schedules, etc. It can even alert users if something in their plans change.
  • Packing Pro – By simply plugging in where they’re going, for how long, and with who, this app will suggest what to pack in categories such as essentials (passport, currency), clothes, gadgets, and more. It can even suggest separate lists for traveling companions.

Tip of the Week – Cell Phone Smarts

big-wireless-billCountless travelers have returned home from their dream vacations only to be hit with wireless phone bills that rival the cost of the entire vacation. Make sure your clients don’t run the same risk by advising that they…

  • Check with their wireless provider prior to leaving the U.S. to find out how they can avoid incurring extra charges. Some carriers may even suggest leaving the phone at home and buying a disposable phone, renting one, or upgrading to an international plan for the duration of the trip.
  • Turn off the phone’s data features so they aren’t hit with data fees every time the phone downloads emails or connects to the Internet
  • Use WiFi, rather than a 3G network to check e-mail. WiFi, available in all, but the most remote locations today, is local and doesn’t incur roaming charges.
  • Purchase an international SIM card so that you will have access to local rates

How to

Mastering the art of Italian Train Travel

Scenes from an Italian Train Station In this interesting piece from LifeinItaly,com you will find a breakdown of the three types of rail service available in Italy, a sample dialogue of what you expect to encounter while traveling in Italy as well as some great advice on how to manage the whole experience.



Among some of the “need to know’ tips that are detailed involve:

  • When to reserve your seats
  • Buying a train ticket
  • Using Eurail Italy Pass
  • The necessity of validating your ticket

Of course, Sceptre Tours offers a number of Italy vacation packages with rail travel components and out experienced call center staff is more than happy to answer all your questions as you plan you Italian rail adventure!

Italian Rail Map

Basic map of Italian Railway

Tip of the Week – Transportation Options

Euro Car RentalWhen considering various ground transportation options, clients should be aware of various upgrades available.  In terms of car rentals, there are myriad options from upgrading to automatic shift to upgrading to a Mercedes Benz. For that matter, why not upgrade to a chauffeur drive?  It’s much less expensive than they might think. When it comes to rail travel, your clients might enjoy upgrading to First Class.

Clients choosing to travel by rail should know they don’t need to wait to get to the station or boarding the train to purchase their tickets. Unlike in the U.S., rail tickets in Europe can often be purchased in the local shops.

Spotlight on Insurance

Clients planning to rent a car while on vacation should be aware of several important factors. Of course, for those traveling to Britain or Ireland, it’s important to be aware that driving is done on the left side of the road from the right side of the car. Furthermore, most rentals throughout Europe are for manual shift, economy size cars, however upgrades to automatic and full size are available. In fact, clients can upgrade to a variety of sizes from 4-seaters to mini-vans or full size vans that seat up to 9 passengers. Bear in mind that Europe’s roads and in particular, its parking spots, are best suited for smaller vehicles, so clients may face a few challenges when driving larger vehicles.

Perhaps most important is that your client understands the auto insurance policies. First, car insurance is not an option. While your clients might believe that they have complete coverage through their credit cards, this is often not the case internationally. We strongly recommend they contact their credit card company to determine what is and isn’t covered while traveling abroad.  Furthermore, from a budget perspective, it’s less expensive to purchase insurance prior to departure because of the currency rates.

Sceptre Tours offers VIP CDW insurance to be booked prior to departure at a discounted rate; allowing complete walk away coverage, and strongly recommends purchasing at the time of booking.

For full list of legal declarations and insurance explanations for Sceptre Tours packages, click here.

Scotland, Bond’s Scotland

Along with celebrating the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the longest running series of films and being the most successful of the James Bond series, SkyFall is now being credited with making Scotland one of the top tourist destinations for 2013.

Bond & M in Scotland

Bond & M in Scotland

According to CNN Travel, the scenes showing Bond driving through the ruggedly beautiful Scottish countryside has piqued interest so much that Scotland has topped such exotic destinations as the capital of Morocco and Slovakia as well as sub-Saharan Africa which finished 2nd, 3rd and 4th respectively.  Rounding out the top 5 was Gettysburg (which is also benefiting from the cinematic boost provided by Spielberg’s Lincoln.)

For any interested in visiting Scotland, Sceptre Tours offers escorted packages to Scotland and will be introducing independent packages to Scotland as well.

Spotlight – Introducing The Tuscan Experience


Villa Casagrande

The Tuscan region of Italy is truly a celebration of the senses. Known for its scenic beauty, rich history, priceless art, culinary pleasures and fine wines, Tuscany reminds us that life is to be enjoyed. And there may be no better way to enjoy a visit to this region than with Sceptre Tours “Tuscan Experience,” a unique, yet affordable escorted tour ideal for small or large groups. In fact, because all departures are guaranteed, there’s no risk of this tour being cancelled; even for groups as small as 2!

villaCasagrande outdoor dining

Dining al fresco in Tuscany

Guests traveling with the Tuscan Experience Tour will be reminded of just how beautiful life can be when they allow their senses to be heightened by the tastes, aromas, beauty and laughter that await them on this magnificent adventure. Guests will spend 5 nights at Villa Casagrande, a 14th century villa located in the heart of Pienza, and where each glorious day on this adventure will begin. From wine tastings, Tuscan feasts, a 3-hour Tuscan cooking class and opportunities to sample some of the world’s finest hams, cheeses and salami, to strolls through ancient villages with their majestic squares, medieval and Renaissance architecture, cobblestone streets, beautiful fountains, and of course local artisans and shops, this itinerary delivers the full Tuscan experience. And because life is best enjoyed when we are rested, we’ve designed the itinerary to allow our guests plenty of free time to spend as they wish; whether that means shopping, dining, strolling or enjoying an afternoon nap.

Complete details about this tour – including dates, pricing and all terms & conditions can be found here.

Tip of the Week – Bed & Breakfasts

bed-and-breakfast-irelandClients hoping to immerse themselves in the local culture, may want to consider Bed & Breakfast stays throughout their vacation. B&B’s tend to be smaller, have fewer guests than hotels, and are managed by folks who enjoy conversing with their guests.  In fact, guests at a B&B are likely to come away with a genuine “insiders” perspective of the region.

One of the experts on B&B Travel, Rick Steves, has this to say on his site…

Staying at a European bed-and-breakfast is a bit like having your own temporary mother while you travel. In the morning, your hostess might help plan your day, tipping you off to the best places for lunch and about the live folk music in the village pub that evening. She then sends you out the door with a smile, handing you an umbrella — just in case it rains. The best B&Bs ooze warmth and local color, making these some of my favorite accommodations in Europe.

Read More

Sceptre Tours has a large and growing network of B&Bs in Ireland, Britain & Italy.  Contact our reservations call center at 800-221-0924 or your DSM for more details.